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Friday, July 27, 2012

Post-Traumatic Gazette # 2

Post-Traumatic Gazette # 2
Gazette Number 2 was a lot of fun to write because it was a chance to share what I had learned about myself as I worked on my own recovery. I really enjoy laughing at myself because I was soooo uptight before I got into recovery for myself.
A favorite quote:
"trying to fix Bob. I didn’t know he had PTSD, but I knew he had problems (not me) so I kept coming up with solutions: read this book, see a shrink, move, new job, read this book. None of them ever worked, partly because I did not know what the problem was (PTSD) but mainly because I didn’t know whose problem it was. I thought it was my problem. I thought he was my problem."

I discuss some of the ways I reacted including:
"•Personalizing: The families of trauma survivors may personalize everything due to our very natural frustration. I feel hurt, therefore he or she meant to hurt me. Feeling Good, by Dr. David Burns talks about this kind of cognitive distortion. The book was very helpful to me and Bob. Family members feel the survivor is doing this to me. Angry at me! Depressed because of me! Jumpy because of me! Numb because he doesn’t love me anymore! It may have nothing to do with you, but if you are wrapped up in someone else’s life the way I was it is almost impossible to conceive of the idea that something not related to the relationship is at the root of the survivor’s reactions. And of course being human, survivors will tell you it is your fault, especially if they don’t know about PTSD. Yeah, if you kept the kids quiet, I wouldn’t be so jumpy. It’s not true, but it seems reasonable so we try harder and harder so the survivor won’t be upset. It doesn’t work. There is also a seductive egotism in personalizing everything—we are so important. This can also lead to the idea that after all I’ve tried, if I can’t fix it, nothing can. Don’t believe it."

Probably my favorite part is in the article "PTSD and Me"
"We lived with PTSD for 14 years without knowing its name, because it didn’t have one until 1980. I felt tremendous guilt, became very controlling, and started an other-centered quest for the thing that would fix my life: when I got Bob straightened out. I had no idea what was wrong, but I was sure it was my fault.
I thought he didn’t love me because of his emotional numbing, his attempts to isolate himself, and his lack of interest in things we had done together. I concluded I was unlovable. I saw his substance abuse not as self-medication to maintain numbness in the face of unbearable thoughts, feelings, and memories, but as deliberate naughtiness. Wild rides on his Honda 750 looked to me like stupid immaturity (except when I joined in) instead of a sense of a foreshortened future. The fact that he couldn’t sleep became a joke. Rage attacks meant he was a jerk. When he couldn’t remember something I’d told him, I got mad because I had never heard of the inability to concentrate, another symptom of PTSD.
My whole life became centered on fixing Bob. My upbringing told me that I could make other people happy. He wasn’t happy. I wasn’t happy. I figured I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I knew you can do whatever you put your mind to. It never occurred to me to try another way. Even after I found out what PTSD was, my quest was still what we should do to fix Bob. I had no idea that I had problems and that my actions and reactions were making it impossible for Bob to get better. We were stuck in a series of ineffective patterns....
I can only change one day at a time, (much more slowly than I’d like), but that gives me compassion when I see how hard it is for others to change. This has let Bob recover in his own way: His symptoms are much less distressing to him and to me than they were. Five years ago, I wrote in Recovering that Bob absolutely could not say when he was having a bad day. Today he can. That is a miracle."

The last article in this issue, "How Families Can Recover" suggests a lot of things families can do to recover, like taking the focus off the vet and working on ourselves.
I hope this issue will inspire people to stay together and work on recovery together, so the family becomes a sanctuary instead of a battleground.
If it is a battleground today, change yourself and see what happens. It is a slow process, recovery, but slow growth is good growth.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Post Traumatic Gazette #1

When I started the Post Traumatic Gazette in 1995, I thought our country would never be involved in another war, especially one like Vietnam without front lines and where anyone could turn out to be the enemy. I was wrong.
Because I knew so many survivors of other traumatic events, I wrote everything with them as well as veterans in mind. It took me more than six months to write issue #1, because I wanted it to explain the symptoms as survival skills in a way that would not be hurtful to anyone. I wrote and re-wrote and polished it till I felt it was as good as I could make it.
Here's one quote I am proud of:
"This is not some random collection of weird behaviors, but appropriate and effective biologically based reactions to extreme stress. They have a purpose: survival."
Many descriptions of PTSD symptoms make no logical connections between them and give no insight into why a person would react like that, but that was my big question when Bob got home from Vietnam: What happened to him? Why does he have that reaction?
Another quote I am proud of:
"These PTSD survival skills tend to become less appropriate and less effective with time and can wind up being really crippling ineffective behaviors. For a healing perspective, we need to keep in mind that the behaviors of trauma survivors are direct evidence, sometimes the best evidence, of what they have survived, of their experience. They are also evidence of ingenuity, creativity and courage. Reframing the behaviors in this light can be an enlightening experience for the survivor, families, friends, and therapists. Instead of being bad behaviors, they become useful evidence about the nature of the trauma or traumas and the guts and brains of the survivor, who, after all, survived."
A final quote which one guy wrote me started him on the road to recovery. It is from the second article: How to Begin to Recover:
"Willing to vs Wanting to: There is also a great deal of difference between the words “want” and “willing.” Spelled differently. Mean different things. Willingness may mean I do things I don’t want to do! If I wait till I want to do the things that will help me recover, I may never recover."
I hope some of you will go read the full issue and tell your friends about it if you find it helpful.

Friday, July 13, 2012

I finally got the Patience Press website online. Bob has been working on it for weeks. Everything I have written since Recovering about PTSD is now available free online at
Please visit and let your friends know.  I will be blogging on various articles in the future.

A book I am dying to read

The Long Walk by Brian Castner sounds like my kind of book. He was a bomb disposal guy in Iraq. Since he lived, I assume he didn't jerk the wires of all the bombs he found like the hero did in that silly movie The Hurt Locker.
This is a book about the effects of war and apparently contains some episodes of typical VA crap, like one shrink telling him he didn't have PTSD. Reminds me of the time when the VA was trying to convince Bob he was a  manic-depressive because sometimes he was happy and sometimes sad... Fads come and go, but PTSD is a service connected disability and they don't like that...
There is so much effort by the military to prove that war does not affect anyone, while they pay lip service to trying to get rid of the stigma of having it. Here is a brave guy with PTSD who has written an honest book about it, and I am dying to read it.